The archive of the International Tracing Service (ITS) contains over 21,000 separate collections of historical documentation. This on-line inventory of collections has been designed to enable users to begin the process of determining whether or not the information they are seeking may be contained in the ITS archive. Collection descriptions are presented in both German and English, and the inventory search engine functions equally well in both languages. Users are encouraged to read both this general description and the user notes for the inventory in order to understand both its capabilities and its limitations.
In November 2007, the 11 countries of the International Commission of the ITS and the International Committee of the Red Cross completed formal approval procedures to allow the entire contents of the archive to be accessible for research. Materials are available, either in the original at the ITS headquarters in Bad Arolsen or, in the form of digital copies, at the archive of the USHMM and at several other research centers in Europe and Israel.
It will take two to three years to fully digitize and transfer the entire ITS historical archive. During this time some collections of material identified in this inventory will be available only at the ITS in Bad Arolsen. As each major component of the collection is digitized, those copies will be transferred in stages to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and to other repository institutions. The major subsections of the archive scheduled for transfer over the coming years include the following:
As of June 2008, the digital images of the Incarceration Documents and the Central Name Index are available at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Because this inventory is not the typical archival finding aid with which users may be familiar, a few notes regarding its origin and characteristics are essential.
The inventory is based on a list of collections maintained over the years by ITS staff to track a) the registration of Holocaust-era and early postwar documentation transferred by the Allied High Command for Germany in 1955; and b) the receipt and registration of additional collections of archival materials deposited at ITS in the more than five decades that have passed since that time. This list of collections was thus organized chronologically by date of registration of each “deposit,” starting with the massive deposits of documentation already accumulated by the time the Bonn Accords of 1955 were concluded, at which point the International Committee of the Red Cross assumed administrative responsibility of ITS. Since then, governments, private organizations, other archives, and even some private individuals have sent additional collections of documentary material to ITS, sometimes in the original and sometimes in copy form. Those very sizeable additional deposits were also recorded chronologically by date of registration on the ITS list of collections. ITS staff also copied some collections from other archives, and their addition to the collections was also recorded. Each discrete deposit of documentary material at ITS is thus defined as a “collection” in the inventory. Some “collections” have just a few pages, while others may contain tens of thousands of pages. In addition, documents of similar origin and type may be located in more than one collection in the ITS archive.
Currently this inventory of collections is the only comprehensive listing of the historical collections in the ITS archive. Because of its origins as a registration tool, the inventory offers only a summary sketch of the contents of the archive, and regrettably not an in-depth view into the contents of every collection. It is not a complete catalog in the traditional sense, but rather a tool to begin exploration of the archive for the purpose of determining whether the information sought may be contained there. This inventory does not identify by name all of the victims of Nazism about whom the ITS archive contain information; therefore searching this inventory for an individual victim’s name is unlikely to produce a result.
In the vast majority of instances, the inventory provides only a brief description of what a collection contains. Most descriptions consist of only a line or two, used by the registrar to identify the collection, rather than to describe its full contents. Thus it is possible, and even likely, that many collections contain materials of greater diversity than the short collection description in the inventory indicates. While the descriptions definitely capture at least some dominant elements of the contents of a collection, it is not possible to determine solely from the inventory the full contents of many of the collections listed. That will be possible only by looking at the documents themselves once they are available, or once additional cataloguing is achieved.
After the scanning and transfer of documents is completed, and with future software development, it is our hope that researchers who visit in person the national repositories of digital copies of the ITS archive will be able to click on a collection description in the inventory and view images of the individual documents in the collection.
Explore the Inventory:
Conduct a Search:
Nazi-Era Terminology/Alternate Search Terms
Frequently Appearing Topics and Themes
Selected Source Institutions (with English translations)